A member of the Arab League's monitoring mission in Syria said in an interview with the Saudi Al-Arabiya news channel that the bloody crackdown on civilians in the country was "virtually mass destruction."
"The events indicate that the regime is exerting revenge on the the Syrian people," Mustashar Mahjoob said, adding that the district of Baba Amr in Homs was "under heavy machine gun fire." The observer said he was injured in the shelling.
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At least 23 people were killed as Syrian tank forces battled opponents of President Bashar Assad in Homs on Monday, residents said. Amateur video posted to the internet by activists showed three tanks in the streets next to apartment blocks in Baba Amr. One fired its machinegun and another appeared to be launch mortar rounds.
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The United Nations says at least 5,000 Syrians have been killed the revolt, inspired by other Arab uprisings this year that have toppled three dictators, broke out in March – and an estimated one-third of deaths have occurred in and around Homs.
'Access good so far'
Earlier, the head of the monitoring delegation, which is seeking an end to the violent repression, said that he met several government officials who have been cooperative and said access had been unfettered "so far."
Sudanese General Mustafa Dabi, who arrived in Damascus on Saturday, is leading the team of observers that will check whether Syria is implementing part of an Arab peace plan requiring it to pull out of civilian areas and put an end to bloodshed.
The nine-month protest movement against Assad's rule has been increasingly mired in violence as security forces crush revolt and armed insurgent are now fighting back.
"We are in Damascus now and have started our mission and will head to other cities faster than you think," Dabi told Reuters by telephone. "Our Syrian brothers are cooperating very well and without any restrictions so far."
Fifty monitors were expected to arrive on Monday and will be divided into teams of ten for observation missions. Some members of the delegation said they planned to visit the flashpoint city of Homs on Tuesday.
Reuters contributed to the report
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